In December 2023 the Columbia College Board reviewed and approved a recommendation from College society members to voluntarily sign a pledge vowing not to use non-disclosure agreements, or NDA’s, in cases of sexual harassment, abuse or misconduct, or other forms of harassment and bullying. By doing so, Columbia College stands together with University of King’s College and Acadia University to end the use of NDA’s to silence victims of abuse in Canada.
The Can’t Buy My Silence Campaign is an anti-NDA campaign started in 2021 by Zelda Perkins in the UK and Professor Julie Macfarlane, professor emeritus of law at the University of Windsor in Canada. So far, over 91 universities and colleges in the United Kingdom have signed the pledge with CBMS, alongside legislation passed in February 2023 in the UK Parliament with an amendment to the Higher Education Act (Free Speech bill). This legislation bans the misuse of NDAs in sexual harassment and abuse cases and will be in force by 2024.
In December 2022 the province of Ontario passed legislation banning universities from using NDAs in cases of faculty/student/ sexual misconduct (see Strengthening Post-Secondary Institutions Act Schedule 1 and 2). A similar law could be adopted by the BC government through Bill 215 Nondisclosure Agreements Act put forth as a private members’ bill in March 2023. Manitoba and Nova Scotia have similar bills moving through their legislatures, while the United States and Ireland have already passed laws banning the misuse of NDAs in sexual assault and harassment (Speak Out Act in the United States in December 2022 and Employment Equity Act in Ireland October 2023).
By becoming the first institution in British Columbia to sign the Pledge, we will join many other institutions of higher education of good conscience around the world who want to ensure that victims can speak about what has happened to them to whoever would be appropriate, and that harmful behaviour is not hidden.
The pledge recognises that NDAs may be appropriate where there has been access to commercially sensitive information, and where it would be reasonable for an organization to take step to ensure that such further information remains undisclosed. The pledge is not designed to encompass such cases.
For more information about the pledge, click here.
For questions or media inquiries please contact Matt Wadsworth, Principal at Columbia College at [email protected].